After graduating from college in 1969 I needed to find a job. Finding that a liberal arts degree wasn't the best qualification, I enrolled in a local "business college" in my hometown of Vicksburg, MS. I quickly became friends with Ginger Allen and Priscilla Kerst, who were in the same predicament. We settled in to learn typing, bookkeeping and even shorthand – marketable skills.

Ginger aspired to move to DC to work on "The Hill." I wanted to head to any large city somewhere other than the deep South, so we agreed to head to Washington. I don't recall what Priscilla's immediate plans were, but the last I heard of her she was in Colorado. Ginger left Washington after a few years and moved to California. We just recently reconnected in 2014 and she is now in Houston and loving it. Dave Bastian, who was Ginger's boyfriend at the time of our trip, was in Maryland at last sighting (c. 2000). I was the one who stayed in the DC area until retiring.

But that was later. Back in 1969 the three of us decided to celebrate our new-found business degrees with a road trip to Mexico. For reasons that weren't clear to me at the time and are less so now over forty years later, Vicksburg was a favored location for young Mexican women to come get an international business credential. I think some of our Mexican colleagues encouraged us to head south of the border.

The following pictures started out life as 35mm slides. I sent them off to be digitized and am not completely satisfied with the results. The folks who did the work neglected to blow the dust off and reversed many of them. I've corrected the most egregious problems, but the quality leaves something to be desired. Nevertheless, they are the best record that I have of the trip.

Picture

Narrative

Departing

We gathered at Ginger's house on Christmas Day, 1969. I had borrowed my parent's station wagon for the trip and we had it loaded to the gills. From L-R are Frank, who would be going with us as far as Texas, Priscilla, Mrs. Allen, Dave, Mr. Allen, and Ginger.

Disaster We made it about 10 miles before having a flat tire!
Unloading

Of course the car had to be completely unloaded before we could get at the spare and the jack. In true Southern form, the girls let the guys change the tire.

We didn't want to travel without having a spare, so the next order of business was getting the flat patched or replaced. Good luck with that!

Priscilla

I don't know how many places we stopped to ask about getting the tire fixed. Every place was either closed completely or offering reduced services. Eventually we could recite in chorus "but it's Christmas Day!"

It wasn't until we got to Houston that we found a place that could replace the tire. By then we were pretty punchy.

Saltillo

I don't recall where we stayed in Texas. I know we dropped Frank off in Laredo and took some time there to purchase car insurance for the drive into Mexico.

The first place where I can definitely remember stopping was Saltillo, a beautiful city nestled in the mountains. The farther we went from the border, the lovelier Mexico became.

Our goal was Mexico City down the Pan American Highway.

Well pump We passed many little farmsteads and villages. We stopped near this little farm to have a picnic lunch. I was fascinated by the wooden contraption. My note on the original slide says that it was a water wheel. None of us spoke more than a few words of Spanish, so it wasn't possible to ask too many questions about how it was used or if people worked it or donkeys.
San Luis Potosí

The next slide was from San Luis Potosí. We were there on a weekend, I think. In any event there was a charming band playing in the city park and a great street market.

Picnic From San Luis Potosí we headed to farther south. At sunset we stopped along the road for a picnic supper.
Cholla

Close by our picnic location was this nasty little cholla. Those spines are lethal. Some varieties, known as "jumping" cholla, can shed segments that will latch on to your clothes or quivering flesh.

The original slide has a nicer sunset light.

Mexican Sunset We enjoyed the sunset along with our picnic.

Driving in Mexico was fraught with hazard, but we were young. I don't know that I would brave the Mexican highways after dark now. We frequently saw cars and trucks simply parked on (not beside!) the highway. Drivers took no notice of oncoming traffic before passing – they just figured that everyone would have the good sense to get out of the way. I know we did!

There were stories that poor people would deliberately step in front of an American car in order to claim injury and collect insurance (or extortion).

Of course this was many years ago and circumstances are undoubtedly different nowadays.
Querétaro Motel

Our next stop was Querétaro, where we stayed two nights. I don't remember why I made a point of taking this picture of our motel except that it was quite comfortable. Nice pool.

Even though it was winter and the altitudes throughout Mexico were quite high, it was not cold. Just cool enough to be pleasant.

Querétaro Aqueduct

Querétaro is noted for many things. Among them is this 18th century aqueduct. I did get a close-up of it, but by the time we got there it was too dark for a decent picture.

I don't recall anymore why our focus was almost completely on pre-Columbian monuments. Many of the cities we visited have notable Spanish colonial neighborhoods and buildings, but we didn't visit any of those except a little in Mexico City. It probably had a lot to do with time limits – you can only do so much.

Tula Countryside Querétaro was our base for an expedition to the ancient site of Tula. The countryside was quite lovely.
Opal Mines On the way we passed these mines. The area is noted for Mexican opals. I bought a very lovely pink opal for not too much money. (Once we left the border towns behind prices were all extremely reasonable from our American perspective.) After I got home I had it set into a ring, but shortly thereafter I dropped it and the stone shattered. Oh no! Luckily I was able to return the setting, which had cost more than the stone. It was many years before I got the nerve to buy another opal.
Tula

Tula was the ancient capital of the Toltec people. It was developed prior to the 11th century, A.D.

Their primary god was Quetzalcóatl – the plumed serpent. When I was in college one of my roommates, who was majoring in Spanish, had a mask of Quetzalcóatl that she hung up in our dorm room. While here I thought of her. She later became a missionary to South America.

Tula Statues These ancient figures are called "Atlantean," although there is no traditional connection with Atlantis that I'm aware of. They may have once supported a temple structure. There is a lot of more-or-less fanciful stuff out in WWW land about what they might have been or what they might represent.
Mexico City Macaw

After our stop in Querétaro, we headed to Mexico City where we spent a few days. This macaw was the mascot of the motel where we stayed.

There are always stories of "Montezuma's Revenge" besetting travelers in Mexico. Our Mexican friends at school, however, assured us that Mexicans visiting Mississippi had a similar problem. It's primarily due to unfamiliar microbes found in water and on produce.

In any event, we had been wary eaters and drinkers and by the time we reached Mexico City none of us had experienced any ill effects. I wasn't feeling especially perky after the long trip, however, and elected to stay at the motel while the others went out to eat. It turns out that they became victims of irrational exuberance while visiting the only up-scale restaurant of the trip. They ate (gasp!) salad. As a result they all came down with a nasty bug that I escaped altogether. (Although sharing a motel room with three very sick individuals was not to be envied!)

This somewhat cramped our sight-seeing in the city!

University of Mexico

Nevertheless, the next day Dave was ambulatory so the two of us drove out to visit the University of Mexico's campus.

The main library, pictured here, was designed in 1953 by architect Juan O'Gorman. The mosaic murals are said to be the largest in the world. They are constructed from natural stone and glass. Breath-taking doesn't begin to describe them.

Olympic Statium Mexico Also located at the university is the stadium from the 1968 Summer Olympics. At the time we visited in 1969, it was still quite new. The location of the games at such a high altitude was very controversial at the time.
High-altitude training

I was interested to see that there were athletes using the stadium seating for training. The altitude in Mexico City is over 7,000 feet (2,240 metres). It is no mean feat to run up and down these steep steps. I was panting just walking around.

While Dave and I were at the University site, Ginger and Priscilla managed to get out a bit and met a couple of university students downtown. We all went out with them that evening to the local equivalent of a State Fair. I don't remember much of the experience other than almost getting lost on the subway and the really, really hot dipping sauce for the corn dogs!

Tinochtitlan

The next day everyone was up to some sightseeing. We headed down to the main plaza and the National Palace in order to see the Diego Rivera murals. (The link has more complete images than these along with an explanation of the political message Rivera was trying to illustrate.)

This mural shows the ancient city of Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital. It was built on a large lake with causeways and floating gardens. Colonial Mexico City was constructed on land reclaimed from this lake.

Cortez Rivera's agenda was to show the Spanish as something less than noble. In this and other images Cortés in particular was shown as deformed – almost cretinous in appearance. Bones reputed to be his indicate that he may have been hunchbacked (can't verify) and syphilitic (likely). His picture is in the upper right of this image. The conquistadors in the foreground are committing atrocities against the Indians.
Mexico Cathedral CathedralThe Metropolitan Cathedral faces the same large square as the National Palace. At the time we visited there was work in progress to prevent the cathedral from sinking into the soft lake bottom shown in the mural above. Since that time the building has been stabilized. The interior of the cathedral was quite elaborate:
Teotihuacan

The next day we drove to visit the site of Teotihuacan. The initial construction of this ancient city was in the first two centuries AD. Much about the culture that built it is still unknown.

This "main street" of the city is called the Avenue of the Dead.

Pyramid of the Plumed Serpent The Feathered Serpent Pyramid is the third largest at the site. It is decorated with the carvings that supply the name.
Weary travelers We walked around much of this site, which was enormous. The Pyramid of the Moon, in the background, towers over the city. It is set to the side of the "main street."
Pyramid of the Sun
The Pyramid of the Sun is constructed like the Pyramid of the Moon, but it is at the axis of the city.

I wasn't able to convince Priscilla and Ginger to climb that height, but Dave and I made it to the top. Unfortunately my picture from the top wasn't scanned by the service where I sent my original slides.

The climb was naturally much steeper and rougher than it appeared at the bottom.

Teotihuacan After Teotihuacan we reluctantly headed back north toward home. We had a wonderful adventure in our neighbor to the south.

There was still some drama to our trip, however. We had purchased auto insurance at the border for a specific number of days. Those days were coming to an end and we were too far from the border to make it back in time. First we tried to buy an extension in Mexico City, but that effort was unsuccessful – I forget why. After consultation we decided to start for the border and see if we could get some insurance on the way.

We made it some distance north before trying again. This is where we really learned about mañana. We spent much of a Friday morning in an insurance office waiting for the agent who was expected to return momentarily. It turned out he had gone fishing and had no intention of coming in to work before the following Monday.

At that point we decided to make a dash for the border and trust that there would be no mishaps on the way. There weren't. I can vividly recall, however, the tension we all felt when we later discovered that we had left our entrance documentation in the insurance office! Luckily we passed the border without incident.

About six months after we returned home my parents received a packet in the mail from Mexico. The insurance office had returned the documentation that we had left. Since the car belonged to my parents, their address was included in the documents.

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